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A Truly Chief Rabbi!
The Gaon, Rav Moshe Chaim Lau, the Rav of Pietrokov, Poland, stemmed from a line of 36 generations of Rabbanim. In 1942, the Nazis sent most of the Jews of Pietrokov to Treblinka. Before the final selection of the Jews, R' Lau directed his wife and child (who later became the Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau) to a hiding place. He himself refused to hide. He knew that the Germans who recognized him as the Rav of the city would not rest until they found him. He said, "If I hide, they will turn over the ghetto stone by stone until they find me. I'll stand openly before them, in hope that their search will be more superficial, and maybe other Jews will have the opportunity to hide." He parted from his family, and stood in the shul with a Sefer Torah in his hands, until the Germans came and removed him. He was sent to the train that brought him, along with 28,000 Jews from Pietrokov, to Treblinka.
On the day he arrived in Treblinka, something very strange happened that could only be the result of Hashgacha. On that day, another train arrived in Treblinka, and in it were the Jews from Pershov, Slovakia. Eight years earlier, R' Lau had ended his tenure as Rav there. From that time, no Rav had been appointed in his place. These two cities were two completely different worlds. In Pershov they spoke German and Hungarian, and in Piertrokov, they spoke Yiddish and Polish. The one thing that these two cities shared was the fact that the last Rav of Pershov was also the last Rav of Pietrokov. On the way to the gas chambers in Treblinka, the Jews of Pershov and the Jews of Pietrokov met with their Rav.
R' Lau stood before the group of Jews and repeated the words of Rabbi Akiva. When they combed his flesh with combs of steel, his students asked him how he bore his suffering. Rabbi Akiva answered, "All my days, I worried about the possuk, "Bechol nafshecha", wondering when I would be able to fulfill it."
R" Lau then said, "Yehudim, of all the Taryag Mitzvohs - one mitzvah is left in our hands to fulfill, ‘Venekdashti betoch Bnei Yisrael' -to be killed because we are the bearers of Hashem's name - the nation of Yisrael. Come, brothers, we will fulfill it with simcha. I will tell you what Rav Simcha Bunim of Pesichsa said, ‘The power of simcha will save us from all troubles, and the suffering of this world." R' Lau then raised his voice and began to say Vidui, the Jews answered after him, and pure of sin, they went to their deaths. (Source: Al Tishlach Yadecha El Hanaar)
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